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IACM-Bulletin of 08 April 2012

World: Increasing numbers of patients use cannabis for medicinal purposes

An increasing number of patients in the world are using cannabis for therapeutic reasons, with available data from countries, which have installed programs for their citizens. Good data are available for Israel, Canada, the Netherlands and many states of the US with medicinal cannabis laws and registries. In several more countries only a few patients are allowed to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, including Germany, Norway, Finland and Italy. In many other countries such as Spain and some states of the US without a registry such as California the number of medicinal users is estimated to be high, but no detailed data are available.

The numbers in California with hundreds of cannabis dispensaries and clinics that issue medical cannabis recommendations are unclear, since the state does not require residents to register as patients. Most of the 16 states that allow the medicinal use of cannabis require a registration. Recently the press agency Associated Press published data on registered patients in different states of the USA based on state agencies responsible for maintaining patient registries:

State: Number of registered patients (per 1,000 of the whole population)
Colorado: 82,089 (16.3)
Oregon: 57,386 (15.0)
Montana: 14,364 (14.5)
Michigan: 131,483 (13.3)
Hawaii: 11,695 (8.6)
Rhode Island: 4,466 (4.2)
Arizona: 22,037 (3.5)
New Mexico: 4,310 (2.1)
Maine: 2,708 (2.0)
Nevada: 3,388 (1.3)
Vermont: 505 (0.8)
Alaska: 538 (0.8)
Patient registration is mandatory in Delaware, New Jersey and the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.), but their registries are not yet up and running. Washington State has neither voluntary nor mandatory registration.

Data from Israel show that in August 2011 6,000 patients got medicinal cannabis (0.8 patients in 1,000). It is estimated that the number increases to 40,000 in 2016 (5.2 patients in 1,000 citizens). In Canada 12,116 patients were allowed to use cannabis on 30 September 2011 (0.35 patients in 1,000 citizens). Numbers of patients using cannabis from the pharmacies in the Netherlands were estimated to be 1,300 in 2010 (0.08 patients in 1,000 citizens). However, many patients in the Netherlands use cannabis from the coffee shops or grow their own. In Germany about 60 patients are currently allowed to use cannabis for medicinal purposes.

More at:
- hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_COUNTING_POT_PATIENTS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
- hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_COUNTING_POT_PATIENTS_STATE_DATA?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
- www.pmo.gov.il/PMOEng/Communication/Spokesman/2011/08/spokecannabis070811.html

(Sources: Associated Press of 24 March 2012, website of the Israeli Prime Minister of 7 August 2011, UPI of 31 October 2011, Pharmaceutisch Weekblad No. 20, 2011)

News in brief

Australia: Celebrities call for drug legalisation and an end to the drug war
Current and former ministers, including the Australian foreign minister Bob Carr, scientists including Prof. Robin Room, and other celebrities including former head of the federal police Mick Palmer call to an end of the drug war. In a report they state: "The war on drugs has failed. (...) The prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalizing our children and we are letting it happen." More on the website of the campaign Australia 21 at www.australia21.org.au/. (Source: Australia 21 of 3 April 2012)

Science/Human: Baby wash products may interfere with THC drug tests
Scientists of the University of North Carolina, USA, observed that commercially available baby soaps and other wash products may cause positive results in a drug screening on THC. They concluded: "Such results in this population can lead to involvement by social services or false child abuse allegations. Given these consequences, it is important for laboratories and providers to be aware of this potential source for false positive screening results and to consider confirmation before initiating interventions." (Source: Cotten SW, et al. Clin Biochem. 2012 Mar 23. [in press])

Science/Animal: Oleamide causes enhanced relaxation of the arteries in high blood pressure
Oleamide is an endocannabinoid-like, fatty acid amide with structural similarities to anandamide. The cardiovascular effects of anandamide are enhanced in hypertension and now scientists demonstrated that oleamide also enhances relaxation of the arteries in rats with high blood pressure (spontaneously hypertensive rats). This effect was not mediated by cannabinoid receptors. (Source: Hopps JJ, et al. EUR J Pharmacol. 2012 Mar 23. [in press])

Science/Human: A certain variant of the CB2 receptor increases the risk of celiac disease
According to research at the Second University of Naples, Italy, a certain variant of the cannabinoid-2-receptor is associated with an increased risk for celiac disease, a chronic inflammatory disease of the small bowel that occurs with the ingestion of gluten, found in several grain products. Scientists wrote that "we provide here further evidence that the CB2 receptor plays a critical role in autoimmunity susceptibility and indicates that it represents a molecular target to pharmacologically modulate the immune components in celiac disease." (Source: Francesca R, et al. Pharmacol Res. 2012 Mar 24. [in press])

Science/Human: Sexual arousal in women is associated with changes in endocannabinoid concentrations
Research at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, shows that blood concentrations of endocannabinoids change during sexual arousal in women. Increases in both physiological and subjective indices of sexual arousal were significantly associated with decreases in anandamide (AEA), and increases in subjective indices of sexual arousal were significantly associated with decreases in 2-AG. (Source: Klein C, et al. J Sex Med. 2012 Mar 29. [in press])

Science/Animal: Stimulation of the CB1 receptor reduces cognitive impairment in a model of Alzheimer's disease
According to research at the University of Barcelona, Spain, the chronic administration of a synthetic CB1 receptor agonist (ACEA) reduces the cognitive impairment in genetically modified mice, which produce high amounts of amyloid-beta. It had no effect on amyloid-beta production, aggregation or clearance from brain cells. Amyloid-beta is found in high amounts in nerve cells of patients with Alzheimer's disease. (Source: Aso E, et al. J Alzheimers Dis. 2012 Mar 26. [in press])

Science/Animal: Cannabinoids prevent the stress-induced enhancement of a negative experience
It is well-known that cannabinoids help to forget stressful experiences. Now researchers from the University of Haifa, Israel, demonstrated that the administration of a cannabinoid (WIN55,212-2) to animals prevented the stress-induced enhancement of memory consolidation of negative learning experiences. The enhancement of a negative emotional memory following exposure to stress may result in dysfunctional memory that underlies several psychiatric disorders. Cannabinoids may help to prevent these disorders. (Source: Ramot A, Akirav I. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2012 Mar 16. [in press])

Science/Animal: Cannabinoids protect the blood-brain barrier under inflammatory conditions
A research team from the USA investigated the effects of a CB2 receptor agonist on the blood vessels in the brain and the function of the blood-brain barrier in inflammation. Studies on the permeability of the blood-brain barrier showed that the cannabinoid was effective at preventing barrier leakiness in mice after administration of bacteria compounds. Researchers concluded that their "results suggest that pharmacological CB2R ligands offer a new strategy for blood brain barrier protection during neuroinflammation." (Source: Ramirez SH, et al. J Neurosci 2012;32(12):4004-16.)

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